Archive for January, 2009

Let’s allow cameras in the Minnesota recount courtroom

The Minnesota U.S. Senate recount has moved to courtrooom. Trailing Al Franken by 225 votes, Norm Coleman has exercised his legal right to challenge the recount result.

A three-judge panel will hear that case. This recount offers a tremendous opportunity in Minnesota to try cameras in the courtroom. A group of news media organizations, including Minnesota SPJ , is asking the state Supreme Court to loosen the restrictions on recording devices and cameras in the courtrooms. A decision is pending. Minnesota court rules require all parties to a court case to sign off on having cameras. Unless, the judge, defandant and both the prosecutor and defense lawyer agree, the cameras stay out.

One of the three judges in the recount is Elizabeth Hayden, who has been open to cameras in courtrooms previously. This special court hearing offers a great opportuntity to give cameras a try again. The recount has been one of the most open government processes I have seen. Opening the courtroom to cameras and recorders would continue the transparency that has given people faith in the recount process.

National SPJ has signed onto a letter that the Minnesota Associated Press is sending to the court asking it to be open to cameras and recording devices.

Kicking off the Centennial

It is 2009 and SPJ has entered its 100th year of existence. On Friday, Jan. 9, executive committee members, and loyal SPJ members gathered in the Milwaukee Press Club to kickoff the Centennial year.

The event was just the start of what will be almost a year-long series of events at the national and local levels that will be a look back at the accomplishments in the past century and a look at what lies ahead.

It was in 1909, that five college students at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. started a journalism fraternity. Today, under the name it took in 1988, Society of Professional Journalists is the leading journalism organization in the country.

We have three national events palnned. The next is the centennial celebration on the actual starting day. We will gather in Greencastled April 17 for a program and celebration. On June 26, we will award pioneering TV station KSTP-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul with an historic site in journalism plaque. And in August, the annual convention in Indianapolis will feature numerous events to honor our past.

We started our journey in Milwaukee because of its rich SPJ history. The city was home to one of the first five pro chapters that began in 1921. The chapter grew from the Marquette University chapter. Over the years, Milwaukee SPJ has been a leader – hosting national conventions, standing up for press rights in Wisconsin and providing strong national leadership. Richard Leonard was national president in 1976-77 and Jean Otto in 1979-80. Otto was the Society’s first woman president.

It was an pleasure to be in Milwaukee last weekend and it was the perfect place to start remembering SPJ’s first 100 years.


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